In the Name of Salome

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Overview

"The story of my life starts with the story of my country... ." Thus begins Julia Alvarez's epic fictional account of the real-life Salomé Ureña-the "Emily Dickinson of the Dominican Republic." Born in the 1850s, in a time of intense political repression and turmoil, Salomé's fervent patriotic poems turned her-at seventeen-into a national icon. In the Name of Salomé is equally the story of Salomé's daughter, Camila, who grows up in exile, in the shadow of her mother's legend. Shy and self-effacing, Camila's life ...

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Overview

"The story of my life starts with the story of my country... ." Thus begins Julia Alvarez's epic fictional account of the real-life Salomé Ureña-the "Emily Dickinson of the Dominican Republic." Born in the 1850s, in a time of intense political repression and turmoil, Salomé's fervent patriotic poems turned her-at seventeen-into a national icon. In the Name of Salomé is equally the story of Salomé's daughter, Camila, who grows up in exile, in the shadow of her mother's legend. Shy and self-effacing, Camila's life is in stark contrast to Salomé's. While her mother dedicated her brief life to educating Dominican girls to serve their struggling new nation, Camila spent her career explaining the Spanish pluperfect to upper-class American girls. But when, at age sixty-six, Camila makes a decision to leave her comfortable life behind and join Castro's revolution in Cuba, she begins a journey to make peace with her past-and bring the lives of two remarkable women full circle.

Spanning more than a century, In the Name of Salomé proves Alvarez equally adept at capturing the sweep of history and the most intimate details of women's lives and hearts. It is Alvarez's richest and most inspiring novel to date.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
La Musa de la Patria

In recent years, novelists Mona Simpson (Anywhere But Here), Karla Kuban (Marchlands) and Susannah Moore (My Old Sweetheart), among numerous others, have memorably explored the mother-daughter relationship, showing us the conflicted, often painful intersections of the lives of their multigenerational characters. But in Julia Alvarez's new novel, In the Name of Salome, the mother, Dominican poet and political muse Salomé Ureña, only lives long enough to hear her three-year-old daughter Camila recite one of her consumptive mother's poems. What we get, then, is a compelling work of fiction based on remarkably tireless research and shaped by Camila's reach into the past, into her mother's history and her mother's place in history, in order to make sense of the choices she has made about her own.

A masterful manipulator of time, Alvarez alternates points of view, shuttling us not only back and forth between Salomé and Camila, but also moving us forward in Salome's life as she moves us backward in Camila's. Salomé writes in secret as a child, publishes briefly under a pseudonym and soon emerges as herself, a figure of inspiration for a nation. But all the while she longs for that other kind of passion, the one her family and her readers would like to believe she is above: the passionate love of a man. Sadly, though she finds that love in Papancho, he is never fully hers. He belongs in turn to his country, to his studies, and inevitably to another woman. How Salomé withstands losing this managain andagain has to do with what we all withstand — wisely and unwisely — in the name of love.

Camila writes poetry only as a mature woman. As a child her life is shaped by the political values that shape Papancho's life. Those values find only cautious expression in the U.S. where she studies at the University of Minnesota and later becomes a professor at Vassar. But in Cuba, where she spends the last 13 years of her life, she fulfills the dream of both her mother and father as a vital and dedicated participant in Fidel Castro's "revolutionary experiment."

Through skillful mechanics Alvarez makes characters of time itself and the history that marks it. And what troubling history it is, spanning over 100 years (1856-1973) in the life of the Dominican Republic, where the government changes hands with as much frequency as a señorita changes her linens, and "Depending on the president, the pantheon of heroes changes, one regime's villain is the next one's hero, until the word hero, like the word patria, begins to mean nothing.".

But if history renders language meaningless, what is left? Only the struggle to make meaning, and only love makes that struggle real and worthwhile; on this matter mother and daughter agree. So this is also a love story, in which Salomé discovers that she will give up everything — her writing, her social activism, finally her health — for the man she loves, and Camilla discovers that she will sacrifice her secure teaching position in the U.S., the approval of family, friends and erstwhile lovers for the very thing her mother's passionate poetry taught her: love for the land and the people who give life to it.

Alvarez's skillful prose styling distinguishes the two women not only through the details of their lives but also through their meticulously wrought voices. Moreover, just as interesting as what distinguishes them from one another is what unites them: the pull of public life on their private lives and the challenges presented by the conventions that govern their lives as women. And they and we thrill equally to the ultimate discovery we're all reaching for, "that hushed and holy moment...when the word becomes flesh."

In a book rich in extended metaphor, where poetry and idealism play a huge role, we are never encumbered with abstraction. This is a writer going at full tilt: wry, wise, ironic, forgiving. She, like both the women of this novel, is an educator, though neither didactic nor condescending. Even though we know from the beginning the details about the end of both mother's and daughter's lives, Alvarez manages to sustain an air of suspense throughout, the point being not what happens, but how it comes about, and at what cost.

Susan Thames is the author of a book of short stories, AS MUCH AS I KNOW. Her novel I'll Be Home Late Tonight was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

Dylan Siegler
In the Name of Salome underscores the unique and yet universal wisdom generations of women impart to each other, but Salome's rich and gripping life story, culled from scant existing records, is the real treat.
Ms. Magazine
World Literature Today
A refreshingly stimulating novel, told in a neorealistic style that will intrigue.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Dazzling... .Alvarez joins the ranks of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende... .
New York Times Book Review
Original and illuminating ... Alvarez's most ambitious work to date.
Los Angeles Times
A delicate writer whose respect for the force of human love gives the novel its exquisite tension.
Denver Post
Masterful ... rich and rewarding historical fiction ... poignant, colorful, exhilarating.
Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
By the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent, this ambitious and "magnificent" novel, based on the lives of two heroic women, Camila and Salome Urena, spans more than a century of the Caribbean's tumultuous history. "Keeps the reader engrossed from beginning to end." "A cultural, political, poetic, and emotional tapestry - I read it in one sitting." "Absolutely intoxicating; I can't wait to read more of her work." Reminded one reviewer of A. S. Byatt's Possession. Recommended as a book club read.
Library Journal
When Camila was three, her mother, Salom Urena, the Dominican Republic's "National Poetess," died. For years, the youngster wrestled with the loss, holding fast to the dream that her mother would someday reappear, a mysterious, larger-than-life stranger. Meanwhile, her aunt Ramona struggled to help the child understand Salom 's demise, teaching her a special, if sacrilegious, incantation to soften what had happened: "In the name of the Father, the Son and my Mother, Salom ." Alvarez (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents) has written a brilliantly layered novel that is grounded in 100 years of Latin American history. As Salom 's story intertwines with Camila's, we are made privy to politics both personal and international. Passionate and unpredictable, the book quietly lambastes colonialism and imperialism. At the same time, feminist themes emerge, from the enduring agony of motherless daughters to the integration of lesbians into progressive movements. Well wrought and powerful--if at times structurally confusing--this is a novel to be passed from friend to friend, from madre to hija. Highly recommended.--Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Suzanne Ruta
This is Alvarez's most ambitious work to date…[it] delivers a strong sense of who these people were…Original and illuminating . . .
The New York Times Book Review
Magazine Staff People
In this enchanting novel, the author of In the Time of Butterflies contrasts the lives of a famous poet and her daughter, who is a mousy closet lesbian.
Harlan
Alvarez poignantly explores the interplay between personal and political revolutions—fool-hardy, painful, and sometimes necessary.
Entertainment Weekly
Emily Drabinski
Alvarez delivers a history lesson imbued with magic, intimacy, warmth, and humor.
Out Magazine
Dylan Siegler
In the Name of Salomé underscores the unique and yet universal wisdom generations of women impart to each other, but Salomé's rich and gripping life story, culled from scant existing records, is the real treat.
Ms. Magazine
Judith Grossman
Alvarez gives us a powerful sense of inhabiting the life that she recreates, along with the changing world that surrounds it.
Women's Review of Books
karen Helfrich
…Alvarez has written another powerful and ambitious novel….
Lambda Book Report
Kirkus Reviews
In her restless and vibrant fourth novel, Alvarez (Yo!, 1997, etc.) turns to the historical figures of Salomé Ureña, former national poet of the Dominican Republic, and her daughter, Camila, a professor in the US, chronicling each woman's lifelong struggle to define la patria and her obligation to it. Starting near the end of Camila's life and the beginning of Salomé's, alternating chapters move through time in opposite directions to form a rich narrative tapestry. From an early age, poetry and politics are Salomé's crucible, and in the 1870s she becomes the voice of a people longing for independence from dictators and colonizers. A younger and especially ardent admirer wins her heart, but marriage to Pancho takes Salomé from her muse, as their children and a commitment to establishing a liberal school for girls consume her while the political situation goes from bad to worse. When Pancho begins a second family in Paris, where he's gone to obtain advanced medical training, the strain on Salomé takes a serious toll on her health, and she contracts tuberculosis. Camila, who lost her mother when she was three, is first viewed retiring from Vassar in 1960 in order to go help the revolution in Cuba, where she grew up with her stepfamily. Camila's struggle has been different: after confronting a crisis in her sexual identity and facing down American xenophobia as a college student during WWI, she must come to terms with Salomé's complex legacy of love and liberation while pursuing an academic career. But in the end Camila finds her own place and her own homeland, where she can carry on her mother's work. These lives, gentlytold,have currents within them as wide and deep as an ocean's—and no one can miss their primal force.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452282438
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/5/2001
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.39 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia  Alvarez

Julia Alvarez is the author of the novels How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, In the Time of the Butterflies (a national Book Critics Circle Award finalist), and Yo!. She has also published two poetry collections (Homecoming and The Other side/El Otro Lado) and a collection of essays (Something to Declare).

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    1. Hometown:
      Middlebury, Vermont
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 27, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Middlebury College, 1971; M.F.A., Syracuse University, 1975

Read an Excerpt


Prologue

Departing Poughkeepsie

June 1960

She stands by the door, a tall, elegant woman with a soft brown color to her skin (southern Italian? a Mediterranean Jew? a light-skinned negro woman who has been allowed to pass by virtue of her advanced degrees?), and reviews the empty rooms that have served as home for the last eighteen years.

Now in the full of June, the attic is hot. Years back, when she earned tenure, the dean offered her a more modern apartment, nearer to the campus. But she refused. She has always loved attics, their secretiveness, their niches and nooks, where those never quite at home in the house can hide. And this one has wonderful light. Shafts of sunlight swarm with dust motes, as if the air were coming alive.

It is time for fresh blood in this old house. On the second floor, right below her, Vivian Lafleur from the Music Department is getting on in years and going a bit deaf, too. Every year the piano gets more fortissimo, her foot heavy on the pedal. Her older sister, Dot, has already retired from Admissions and moved in with her "baby" sister. "Come quickly, Viv," she sometimes hollers from her bedroom. The music stops. Could this be it for Dot? On the ground floor, Florence from History has been called back from her retirement after the young medievalist from Yale stumbled into a manhole and broke her ankle. "I'm so grateful." Flo cornered her one day downstairs by their mailboxes. "I was beginning to go batty in that cottage in Maine."

She herself is worried about the emptiness that lies ahead. Childless and motherless, she is a bead unstrung from the necklace of the generations. All she leaves behind here are a few close colleagues, also about to retire, and her students, those young immortals with, she hopes, the Spanish subjunctive filed away in their heads.

She must not let herself get morbid. It is 1960. In Cuba, Castro and his bearded boys are saying alarming, wonderful things about the new patria they are creating. The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet last year on a yak with the Chinese at his heels, has issued a statement: One must love one's enemies, or else all is lost. (But you have lost everything, she thinks.) This winter she read of an expedition to Antarctica led by Vivian Fuchs. Sir Vivian has asked the world to agree not to dump its nuclear waste there. (Why dump it anywhere? Camila wonders.) But these are positive signs, she reminds herself, positive signs. It is not a new habit of hers: these efforts to rouse herself from a depressive turn of mind she inherited from her mother. Of course, sometimes the bigger picture is rather grim. So? Use your subjunctive (she reminds herself). Make a wish. Contrary to possibility, contrary to fact.

Most of her things have already been sent ahead, several trunks and boxes, years of accumulation, sorted with her friend Marion's help, down to the essentials. She is taking only her suitcase and the trunk of her mother's papers and poems carried down just now by the school grounds crew to the waiting car. To think that only a few months ago, she was consulting those poems for signs! She smiles at the easy gimmick she thought would resolve the big question in her life. Now, playfully, she imagines the many lives she has lived as captioned by the title of one or another of her mother's poems. How should this new life be titled? "Faith in the Future"? "The Arrival of Winter"? or (why not?) "Love and Yearning"?

The horn honks again. It will probably be titled "Ruins" if she doesn't get downstairs soon! Marion is impatient to go, red-faced and swearing, jerking the steering wheel as she turns the car around. "Lady driver," one of the men mutters under his breath.

Marion and Les, her new husband, have flown up to help with the move. (Marion's companion of ten years finally proposed marriage.) Now the two best friends will head down to Florida in a rental car. Les has already been deposited (Marion's verb) in New Hampshire at his daughter's door, so that Marion and Camila can have this last trip together. All the way down to Baltimore and Jacksonville and on to Key West and her ferry to Havana, Marion will try talking her out of her plans.

"Everyone who is anyone is getting out."

"Well then, I'll have no problem. 'I'm Nobody--Who are you?'" She loves to quote Miss Dickinson, whose home she once visited, whose fierce talent reminds her of her own mother's. Emily Dickinson is to the United States of America as Salome Urena is to the Dominican Republic--something like that. One of her nieces--is it Lupe?--loves those analogies in the game books Camila takes them when she goes to visit. But she herself always feels nervous when she is asked to put things exactly where they belong. Look at my life, she thinks, hither and yon, hither and yon.

But now--"Shall we have a drumroll, shall we blow the trumpet, and pipe a ditty on the flute?" Marion teases--she is heading home, or as close to home as she can get. Trujillo has made her own country an impossible choice. Perhaps it will all turn out well, perhaps, perhaps.

"You are not nobody, Camila," her friend scolds. "Don't be modest now!" Marion loves to brag. She is from the midwestern part of the country, and so she is easily impressed by somebodies, especially when they come from either coast or from foreign countries. ("Camila's mother was a famous poet." "Her father was president." "Her brother was the Norton Lecturer at Harvard.") Perhaps Marion thinks that such reflected importance will stem the tide of prejudice that often falls on the foreign and colored in this country. She should know better. How can Marion forget the cross burning on her front lawn that long ago summer Camila visited the Reed family in North Dakota?

"You need a hand with anything else, Miss Henry?" one of the burly janitorial crew calls up. Her name is HenrIquez ("accent on the i"), she has told them more than once, and they have repeated her name slowly, but the next time she requires their assistance, they have forgotten. Miss Henry, Miss Henriette.

Beyond them on College Street, in their pastel shirtwaist dresses, a group of young graduates hurries by on the way to some last gathering. They look like blossoms released from their stems.

One of them turns suddenly, a hand at her brow, shielding her eyes from the sun, a flag of red hair. "Hasta luego, Profesora," she calls out to the flashing attic windows.

She couldn't possibly see me, the professor is thinking. I am already gone from this place.

Before she leaves, she makes the sign of the cross--an old habit she has not been able to shake since her mother's death sixty-three years ago.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of my mother, SalomE.

Her aunt Ramona, her mother's only sister, taught her to do this. Dear old Mon, round and brown with a knot of black hair on top of her head, a Dominican Buddha but with none of the bodhisattva's calm. Mon was more superstitious than religious and more cranky than anything else. Back then, it was a habit to kiss each parent's hand and ask their blessing before leaving the house. La bendición, Mamá. La bendición, Papá.

(The American girls made faces in class when she told them about this old tradition. "What a drag," the plump, freckled girl from Cooperstown said, lifting one corner of her mouth as if the old-world practice had a bad smell.)

When her mother died, Mon thought up this way for her to ask for SalomE's blessing. To summon strength from a fading memory that every year became less and less real until all that was left of her mother was the story of her mother.

Sometimes the phrase is part prayer, part curse--as now when she hears the loud, rude honk from down below and mutters it under her breath. Marion will be the death of Dot yet. The two sisters have always been kind to their quiet upstairs neighbor, that condescending kindness of natives toward foreigners who are not frightening. Dot knits her awful matching accessories every winter that she must wear once in a while to show her appreciation.

Another loud honk, then the call, "Hey Cam! Did you have a coronary up there or what?" She peers down from the back window and waves to her friend that she will be right down. Marion stands beside her rental car, a Caribe turquoise Oldsmobile. They have debated the color. (She is from the Caribbean, and she has never seen that color blue, she argues. But the manual Marion whipped out from the glove compartment did say Caribe turquoise.) With her hands at her hips, her baggy trousers, and paisley scarf tied around her neck (can she really be from North Dakota?), Marion could be the drama coach at the college, barking at the girls up on the stage. Years of teaching physical education have kept Marion fit and trim, and her hardy midwestern genes have done the rest. She is warm-hearted and showy, kicking up a storm wherever she goes. "Are you Spanish, too?" people often ask, and with her dark hair and bright eyes Marion could pass, though her skin is so pale that Camila's father often worried that she might be anemic or consumptive.

They have lived through so much, some of which is best left buried in the past, especially now that Marion is a respectable married lady. ("I don't know about the respectable," Marion laughs.) In her politics, however, Marion is as conservative as her recently acquired husband, Lesley Richards III, whose perennial tan gives him a shellacked look, as if he were being preserved for posterity. He is rich and alcoholic and riddled with ailments.

She should not think so unkindly.

By the door hangs the chart her student helper drew up when they were sorting through the family trunks. Camila found the scrap of paper when she was cleaning up, no doubt inadvertently left behind. She was so amused by this young girl's vision of her life, she tacked it up on her bulletin board. She considers taking it down, then decides to leave this curious memento for the next tenant to ponder.

The car honks again, another shout of summons.

It will be a long ride to Florida. She has measured the route on the large atlas at the library using her fingers to figure out the distance. Each finger a day on the road. Five fingers, a handful, with Marion singing old campfire songs and driving too fast, especially with SalomE's trunk tied to the roof of the car. On the passenger's side, Camila clutches the arm loop by the door and hopes that that they don't run into a rainstorm, hopes and prays that Marion will not try to talk her out of her decision by reminding her that she is sixty-six, alone, and should be thinking about her pension, should be thinking about her future, should be thinking about moving into a comfy bungalow just down the road from Marion, at least until things settle down at home in those hot-tempered little islands.

"In the name of my mother, SalomE," she says to herself again. She needs all the help she can get here at the end of her life in the United States.

Somewhere past Trenton, New Jersey, to keep her restless friend from further distractions ("Light me a cigarette, will you?" "Any more of those chips left?" "I sure could use a soda!"), she offers: "Shall I tell you why I have decided to go back?" Marion has been pestering Camila ever since she arrived a few days ago to help her friend pack. "But why? Why? That's what I want to know. What do you hope to accomplish with a bunch of ill-mannered, unshaven, unwashed guerrillas running a country?"

Purposely, she believes, Marion mispronounces the word so it sounds like gorillas. "Guerrillas," Camila corrects, rattling the r's.

She has been afraid she will sound foolish if she explains how just once before her life is over, she would like to give herself completely to something--yes, like her mother. Friends would worry that she had lost her wits, too much sugar in her blood, her cataracts blurring all levels of her vision. And Marion's disapproval would be the worst of all, for she would not only disagree with Camila's choice, she would try to save her.

Marion has turned to face her. Briefly, the car weaves into the left lane. A honk from an oncoming car startles Marion, and she pulls back over just in time.

Camila takes a deep breath. Perhaps the future will be over sooner than she thinks.

"I'm all ears," Marion says when they have both recovered.

Camila's heart is still beating wildly--one of those bats that sometimes gets trapped in her attic apartment so that she has to call the grounds crew to come get it out. "I have to go back a ways," she explains. "I have to start with SalomE."

"Can I confess something?" Marion asks, not a real question, as she does not wait for Camila to answer back. "Please don't get your feelings hurt, but I honestly don't think I would ever have heard of your mother unless I had met you."

She's not surprised. Americans don't interest themselves in the heroes and heroines of minor countries until someone makes a movie about them.

Up ahead a man on a billboard is smoking a cigarette; behind him a herd of cattle waits until he finishes it.

"So, what's the story?" Marion wants to know.

"As I said, I'll have to start with my mother, which means at the birth of la patria, since they were both born about the same time." Her voice sounds strangely her own and not her own. All those years in the classroom. Her half brother Rodolfo calls it her teacher's handicap, how she vanishes into whatever she's teaching. She's done it all her life. Long before she stepped into a classroom, she indulged this habit of erasing herself, of turning herself into the third person, a minor character, the best friend (or daughter!) of the dying first-person hero or heroine. Her mission in life--

after the curtain falls--to tell the story of the great ones who have passed on.

But Marion is not going to indulge her. Camila has not gotten past the first few years of SalomE's life and the wars of independence when her friend interrupts. "I thought you were finally going to talk about yourself, Camila."

"I am talking about myself," she says--and waits until they have passed a large moving van, a sailing ship afloat on its aluminum sides--before she begins again.

Use of this excerpt from IN THE NAME OF SALOM. may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing, or additions whatsoever, and must be accompanied by the following copyright notice:

Copyright c 2000 by Julia Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of my mother, Salomé...

In her acclaimed new novel, prize-winning author Julia Alvarez explores the mystery and multiplicity of identity through the extraordinary journeys of two women—mother and daughter, iconic poet and expatriate teacher—who are embattled but not defeated by the parameters of life in a tumultuous world.

The common denominator connecting much of Julia Alvarez's otherwise eclectic body of work is her shrewd exploration of the fragmentary nature of identity—that axis where lines of culture, ethnicity, politics, and gender intersect and blur. In 1994, Alvarez told The Nation magazine, "I am a Dominican, hyphen, American. As a fiction writer, I find that the most exciting things happen in the realm of that hyphen—the place where two worlds collide or blend together."

This condition of "between-ness" is very much at work in Alvarez's critically celebrated historical epic, In the Name of Salomé. In it, the author delivers her most intriguing cross-fertilization of language and cultures to date—and in her poignant characterization of Camila Ureña, she lays bare the implications and consequences of this cross-fertilization.

As she did in her 1995 novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, Alvarez opens a window in this book on actual lives and historical events in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and the United States with which many English-language readers are unfamiliar. The book's narrative mixes real events and historical figures with fictionalized details, characters, and dialogue. In the Name of Salomé disturbingly exposes government corruption as history's rule rather than its exception, and subtly documents the ferocity of American xenophobia in the 19th and 20th centuries. And perhaps most pointedly, the novel offers an invaluable Caribbean perspective on the dubious motivations that have propelled United States foreign policy and intervention at different points in time.

Yet for all its political and ideological overtones, In the Name of Salomé is first and foremost the work of a joyfully talented chronicler of the human condition doing what she does best: telling a powerful story with rare insight and infectious passion.

In the Name of Salomé is set in the politically chaotic Dominican Republic of the late nineteenth century, on the campuses of three American universities, and in the idealistic Communist Cuba of the 1960s. Salomé Ureña Henríquez lived in the Dominican Republic in the second half of the 1800s, a time that saw no less than thirty Dominican governments rise and fall. By the time she was seventeen, Salomé had become the republic's national icon on the strength of her fiercely patriotic poems for "la patria," or the homeland. Her words sparked unprecedented passion, gave voice to countless disenfranchised countrymen, and assumed a central role in motivating the fight for independence, whether from Spain or Haiti. By stark contrast, her daughter, Camila, born three years before Salomé's death, is shy and self-effacing, cowed by the immense legacy of a mother she never really knew, deeply conflicted about her own attraction to women, and weighed down by the demands of the men in her family (including her father, a one-time president of the D.R.; and her brothers, among them an ambassador and an international literary star).

The book opens in 1960, in Poughkeepsie, New York, where we meet Camila in her sixty-sixth year. Newly retired from her professorship at Vassar College, Camila is headed for Castro's Cuba, the country where she spent much of her early life in exile from Trujillo's dictatorship. As her story moves backward in time over eight chapters to her earliest childhood, we discover the complex motivations behind Camila's return to Cuba, and we begin gradually to understand why she feels like "a bead unstrung from the necklace of generations." Intertwined with Camila's story is that of her mother's, which also spans eight chapters, beginning with her girlhood and culminating with her death in 1897. Alvarez cuts through Salomé's mythic persona and reveals her as an insecure teenage girl armed with a preternatural passion for language, an innate belief in the power of words to change hearts and, above all, a deep-seated love for her country. As the two threads of her novel converge upon each other in the volatile 1890s, Alvarez effects a complex and ingenious interplay between the two stories: the antecedents to Camila's struggles prove to be deeply rooted in the life her mother lived, just as the legacy of Salomé's choices and achievements deeply color her daughter's life in the next century.

Perhaps what is most remarkable about Julia Alvarez's In the Name of Salomé is that even in the midst of a saga of such ambitious temporal and thematic scope, the author manages to make this a bracingly intimate tale. With her trademark narrative finesse, she has fashioned a magical novel of great beauty, great ugliness, and great wisdom. As we follow Salomé and Camila through their respective lives, Alvarez's writing—more generous, unflinching, and technically ambitious than ever—gives us love simultaneously delightful and painful, necessary and devastating.

ABOUT JULIA ALVAREZ

Shortly after her birth in New York City on March 27, 1950, Julia Alvarez moved with her family to the Dominican Republic, where she spent her first ten years. In 1960, amid the fallout of a failed coup involving Alvarez's father against the Trujillo dictatorship, the family was forced to flee to the United States. As a high school student in New York, Alvarez set her sights on a writing career: "What made me into a writer was coming to this country," Alvarez has said. "All of a sudden losing a culture, a homeland, a language, a family.... I wanted a portable homeland—and that's the imagination." After graduating with summa cum laude honors from Middlebury College, Alvarez earned her M.A. degree in creative writing from Syracuse University in 1975. Alvarez began her post-graduate career serving as Poet-in-the-Schools in Kentucky, Delaware, and North Carolina. Currently a professor of English at Middlebury College, she has previously taught at several institutions, including George Washington University, University of Illinois, and University of Vermont. She and her husband also run an organic coffee farm and a literacy project in the Dominican Republic.

The condition of exile Alvarez has known so intimately was the touchstone for her breakout novel How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) and its sequel ¡Yo! (1997). Alvarez's most celebrated work to date, In the Time of the Butterflies, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1994. In 1998, Alvarez published Something to Declare, a collection of essays. Alvarez's acclaimed volumes of poetry include The Housekeeping Book (1994), The Other Side / El Otro Lado(1995), and Homecoming: New and Selected Poems (1996). In 1997, Alvarez's verse was featured in the New York Public Library's exhibition "Original Manuscripts by 100 Masters, from John Donne to Julia Alvarez."

Her books have been translated into nine languages and have won numerous prizes, including the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award and the American Library Association's Notable Book of the Year honor. She is also the recipient of an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the City University of New York and an Alumni Achievement Award from Middlebury College. In 1997, the Dominican Republic dedicated its Annual Book Fair to the artistic and humanitarian contributions of Julia Alvarez.

Praise

"Original and illuminating."—The New York Times Book Review

"-A delicate writer whose respect for the force of human love gives the novel its exquisite tension."—Los Angeles Times

Reading group guide and author interview by Daniel Eshom.

"—We are all the same size, don't you know? Just some of us stretch ourselves a little more...."

AN INTERVIEW WITH JULIA ALVAREZ

Several reviewers and readers have made it a point to emphasize the rich cultural and artistic bonds you share with your novel's real-life heroines, Salomé Ureña and her daughter Camila. Has Salomé's legacy been a source of inspiration to you throughout your career? What was the initial seed for this book? How long did the idea to tell this story germinate—and what did your research involve?

I think it is true that I share bonds with Salomé and Camila, in fact with all the characters I choose to write about. Novels are long meditations on a character or situation or set of questions, not because writers want answers, but because we want to understand. (One of my favorite quotes about the task of a writer comes from Chekhov: "the task of a writer is not to solve the problem but to state the problem correctly.") The work has got to have some deeply personal meaning if we're going to stay invested over the many years that it takes to write a novel.

So yes, I do have a lot in common with Salomé and with Camila, similarities which sometimes only became apparent to me as I was writing the novel.

(For instance, finding out that Camila had taught at Middlebury College where I am now on the faculty! Or that Salomé had died at age 47, the year I began to write the novel.) When any one of these little coincidences happened, I saw it as a serendipitous green light from the muses.

But it might be surprising to my readers that I did not grow up knowing a whole lot about Salomé Ureña or even Camila. As a child in the Dominican Republic, I had heard the famous name. Sometimes, when we drove to the center of the old city, my father found a parking spot on Salomé Ureña Street. On the way to mass at "la catedral" on Sundays, we passed el Instituto de Señoritas Salomé Ureña, which I thought of as a reform school because there were bars at the windows and a watchman at the door.

But I didn't know that Salomé Ureña was one of the most revered poets of the Dominican Republic, "la musa de la patria." I didn't know that she gave up writing poetry to found her Instituto, the first school for females in the country.

Then, about six years ago, a Dominican friend, the poet Chiqui Vicioso, presented me with two books she thought I should read: a slender volume of poems by Salomé Ureña, and the other, a collection of the family's correspondence. I don't read Spanish easily, but I decided to struggle through both books, a dictionary in hand, and relearn my native tongue. After reading both books, I grew so curious that I began to read her contemporaries, to educate myself on Latin American literature and history in general, to travel to Cuba in order to understand Salomé's daughter Camila a little better. The research took me over two years to conduct.

I have to smile when I think that one hundred years after her death in 1897, Salomé Ureña, the great educator of Dominican women, was teaching me my history and native language through her poems and her letters.

The only way to pay her back for that immense favor was to write her story down!

One of the most fascinating aspects of this novel is its narrative structure. Camila's chapters are the mirror image of her mother's, just as the arc of Camila's life seems to reflect, in reverse, that of her mother's. Tell us about the process involved in 'building' this novel. Did you write the chapters in the order they appear in the book?

You said the right word: process of building this novel! It reminded me very much of the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado: Caminante, no hay camino, / se hace el camino al andar.

Traveler there is no path, the path is made by walking!

A novel doesn't come with its pre-set structure. (I suppose some do!) You have to find the "right" structure for that particular story by writing it. That structure is the way you want your reader to travel through the story. . . left turn here, south there, and then west, and back up, and over there. . . . And of course, the journey to the last page is what the novel is all about.

As I began writing, I knew that this novel would have something of the elaborate structure of a 19th century and early 20th century poem. After all, I was writing about a poet. Not to mention that my own writing life had begun in poetry, early training which still affects the way I think about and hear my novels.

As you mentioned—while researching and writing this novel, I began to see how Camila's life was a mirror image of her mother's. I also found the "hinge" that connected them, so tenuously, was that moment when their lives came together and they were a "we"—those brief years between Camila's birth—her mother's death. How to get the structure of the novel to reflect this?

You've done more than perhaps any other author writing in English to raise the consciousness of United States readers about the rich culture of the Dominican Republic and to document the country's tragic, exceptionally volatile history across the last two centuries. To be a teacher, a kind of custodian to memory—are these key motivations behind your writing, particularly your works of historical fiction? Do you take Salomé's self-prescription in the novel—"Rather than write something pretty and useless, I would not write at all"—as your own?

You flatter me. I wish I were as single-minded as Salomé, never tempted by baubles!

I do strive to grow with everything I write, to challenge myself, to expand and work my allotment of talent to the utmost. I keep telling my friends, somewhat morbidly, that I want to use myself up before I die. I don't want to repeat the old tricks or—as much as I love my readers and want to please them—just follow formulas that have pleased before. I figure that my readers have entrusted me to be one of their storytellers, to beat the dark bushes and flush out a bird or two of wonder . . .

As for the kinds of stories I tell, I don't want to limit myself to one population or set of characters or themes. But I do think about something I heard Toni Morrison say when she was asked in an interview why she didn't write more about white people. Toni Morrison drew herself up and shook her head—I couldn't see her, this was over the radio, but I could hear that shake of the head and that squaring of her shoulders in her voice—"Why should I write the stories about white people? I got my own people's stories to tell!"

I can't agree with her more. I became a writer in part because I wanted to write down the stories I never found between the covers of books when I was growing up. Stories that would otherwise be lost when I came to the USA and into the English language, other points of view as I moved into this other, northern, "dominant" history and tradition. Those gaps and silences often do drive writers to write. We want to fill them up with our stories. Give voice. "Abrir caminos"—and not just for our own people. We expand as a human race when more stories are allowed in as the story of who we, human beings, are.

I like to think of those silences/gaps as not just about the Dominican Republic but about women, about the other half of the Americas that has often been left out of the picture. When I was growing up and going to college and reading the canon, these stories were—if present at all—considered "sociology," not literature, never fully credentialed.

You mention in your Acknowledgments "una sorpresa" at José Israel Cuello's house, during which Cuello handed over to you Pedro's diary. What was Cuello's connection to the Henríquez Ureña family? What surprised you most as you read the diary?

José Israel Cuello, a publisher in the Dominican Republic, had come across this diary years back. Some member of the Henríquez family in need of quick cash had approached him about buying it. And then, hearing that I was writing about Salomé, José Israel offered to lend me the diary. What was most amazing was to be in touch, physically, with poems that Salomé had written in her own hand and which her son Pedro had saved and pasted into his diary. Some of these poems were mere scraps, never published, never finished. I felt Salomé's living hand moving across those papers.

Then, of course, the diary contained all those little family tidbits that often don't make it into official biographies but which a teenage son might jot down. The issue of Salomé's color, the age differential between Salomé and Pancho, Pancho's own family background, his long absences, his attempts to micromanage his wife, the boy's observation of his mother's moods. . . .

Of the novel's key players, Pancho Henríquez is most likely to elicit mixed emotions from readers. In Salomé's later chapters, the post-Paris Dr. Henríquez comes across as quite the peacock, infected with what seems to be a bad case of megalomania. Did you struggle with his character? How has the public persona of Francisco Henríquez survived in Dominican history books?

To answer your first few comments: what can I say? Chickens coming home to roost?

Pancho Henríquez, like the rest of us human beings, was a mixed bag. For many years, he was lionized and revered because, let's face it, he stood up to the American occupation, 1916-1924. He was president of the country during those crazed years. He refused to become a puppet president, so he was thrown out of his own country. For eight years, he hung in there, a president without a country, traveling throughout the Americas, trying to drum up support and get his country back. He needed a big ego to do this, an ego which was generous and complicated and made him in many ways a good doctor and politician, but a maybe not so great spouse. This difficult side of Pancho (his French family, his strutting about with his French credentials, his know-it-all character) came across to Dominicans when the Epistolario was published in 1996, a collection of family letters which included many of Pancho's very cold-hearted letters to Salomé from France, and her impassioned, "cri de coeur" letters back to him. Pobrecita!

I didn't want to make him into anything that he wasn't. In a sense, I wanted to convey his full complexity and to let him as a historical character "dig his own hole" while at the same time demonstrating his resilience and courage and pathos.

To what degree, if at all, do you feel a special affinity with other writers whose work also manages to straddle and explore that "hyphenated" space between two cultures? Junot Díaz (Dominican Republic) and Jessica Hagedorn (Philippines) come to mind, among others.

I most especially feel an affinity with these writers, though any writer who writes a fine book that expands me as a human being has my love and allegiance!

I suppose my affinity is closest with those writers of my same generation—like Jessica Hagedorn with whom I "grew up" as a young writer. Besides Jessica, I am thinking of other "compañeras" whose support and mutual struggle were inspirations. In those early years no one was reading us—Rudolfo Anaya, Piri Thomas, Oscar Hijuelos, Sandra Cisneros, Denise Chavez, Ana Castillo, Cherríe Moraga, Lorna Dee Cervantes, as well as, Maxine Hong Kingston and Louise Erdrich and Bharati Mukherjee. The younger generation of incredible writers, Junot Díaz, Edwidge Danticat, Loida Maritza Pérez, Jhumpa Lahiri—to mention a few, give me a great sense of affirmation that we, now the older writers, were not just "abriendo caminos" for ourselves but for a whole new generation of writers who are now allowed entry into that varied, multicultural chorus of American literature.

Camila is sexually conflicted and ultimately unfulfilled in love. And it's so poignant: she seems to be willfully containing her capacity for love, as if on some level she's determined to reserve it all for the one person she knows she'll never be able to give it to—her mother. Camila's repression, sexual and otherwise, contrasts markedly with the exhilarating passion for life shared by so many of the characters you've created. Was she a challenge to write?

You must have the hindsight equivalent of a crystal ball! Camila was a difficult character for me to enter. She was so private. She preferred to be anonymous. When urged to write a book or at the very least to collect her lectures together, she refused. "Enough writers in the family." So, she was a woman of silences, a listener, which is a very difficult character to try to convey through words, through talk!

Then, too, she was a kind of chameleon, surviving by disappearing among the big egos and the dominant culture of the USA in which she chose to live as a withdrawn and quiet Spanish teacher in a small college in upstate New York. But was amazing to me, and what kept me trying to track her down was that this very unlikely woman made a very passionate and courageous choice late in life: she gave up her safety and status—her pension and power—and headed for Cuba in 1960 when so many others were heading out—to do the work that connected her ultimately with the mother she had lost and loved.

Has Camila found redemption, or at least a greater connection to her mother, through her work in Cuba?

Absolutely. Just last night I had an email from a Latin Americanist who specializes in women's literature and has traveled widely in Cuba saying how well known and beloved Camila is in Cuba. Camila's work in literacy and literature helped form and inform a whole generation. One of the halls at the University of Havana is named after her. I think she found her voice finally by giving voice, which is exactly what her mother did a century earlier in the Dominican Republic with her poems and her Instituto for girls.

As I enter solid middle age, Camila's story is a great inspiration in another way: the idea that we can always change and expand; we can find our mission or other missions at later points in our lives. In a culture that reveres youth and the adventures of the young, these other stories are very important! I've always loved the title of that Grace Paley collection,Enormous Changes at the Last Minute.

Is Salomé Ureña still held up as a national heroine in today's Dominican Republic? Is there a particular English-language edition of Salomé's poems you would recommend we pick up?

Salomé Ureña is even more popular today than she was for a long period after her death when she was mostly remembered for a few of her patriotic poems, not her best in my opinion. The canon was predominantly male, and so these poems, considered "varonil," i.e. masculine, and weighty, were the ones that were celebrated. The poems about her family, her feelings for Pancho, were considered "trivial," and were often not even anthologized. (I'm reminded of the "compliment" shouted out at the ceremony when Salomé was awarded the national medal—an incident, by the way, which I learned about in Pedro's diary—"What a man that woman is!")

The publication of the EPISTOLARIO in 1996 brought the living, suffering woman into the national consciousness. Right after that publication there was a renaissance of writing about Salomé, including a play by my friend, Chiqui Vicioso, "Cartas a Una Ausencia," which won a prestigious national prize, and has been presented at the Spanish Repertory Theatre in New York. There have also been poems, novels, critical papers published about Salomé in recent years.

Unfortunately, Salomé 's poems have yet to be adequately translated into English. In part, they are very difficult to transport from that 19th century rather ornate Spanish into our post-modern Anglo-Saxon English! Daisy Cocco de Filippis has translated a few poems into English and is planning to do a wider selection soon.

Some of my readers have asked why I didn't translate more of Salomé's poems myself in my novel. First, I lack skill as a translator (the "translations" in my novel are very loose imitations, more than actual transcriptions), and secondly, I wanted to write a novel about the woman, not a biography of the poet.

Readers should note that on page 356 of the Acknowledgements in the novel, I gave information on the various editions that have appeared of Salomé's poems.

Among your writing peers, whose work do you admire and draw inspiration from?

As I said above, any writer who writes a fine novel or fine book is my teacher! Some have consistently been teaching me over the years of my writing life. I'm thinking of J.M. Coetzee and Russell Banks, of Maxine Hong Kingston and Toni Morrison, of Barbara Kingsolver and Louise Erdrich, of Michael Cunningham and Grace Paley. But then, some of my most valued teachers have been poets. They get me back down into the very heartbeat of words: I'm thinking of Anna Akhmatova and Pablo Neruda and Elizabeth Bishop (I guess they aren't contemporaries, but when I love a writer, I take in their words and they rise up from the page and enter my imagination, living and breathing.) I also love the work of Wislawa Szymborska, Seamus Heaney, Jane Kenyon, among others.

What are you working on these days? What can we look forward to reading next?

Perhaps because of my recent work in the Dominican Republic with literacy with non-readers of all ages, a project which has forced me to read a lot of books for children, I've become very involved in books for young readers of all ages. I've just finished two books, one a picture book for children and another for young readers 8-12 years old. My current project is a sort of Anne Frank book set in this hemisphere in the last century: that is, a fictionalized account by a young girl in a dictatorship about the tragic and frightening experience of living through such a time in history. The novel for readers 12 and up will be dedicated to "those who stayed." Yes, I feel that incredible debt I owe to the many Dominicans, who unlike my family, stayed through the dictatorship years and suffered heavy losses. Why haven't these stories been told, I wonder. It is a gap/a silence in the literature in English: those stories that grew out of the dictatorships and police states the United States endorsed and in many cases set up. Perhaps because of this USA involvement, those stories have been slow to enter the mainstream and be heard and acknowledged.

So, here we go. As we say, as we take the next and the next step:

¡Pa'lante!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Discuss the way Julia Alvarez's narrative establishes a dual meaning of "home": as a physical, concrete place on one hand, and as a metaphor for a state of mind on the other. How does Camila's notion of home compare to her mother's? To her brother Pedro's?
     
  • What are the connections between "home" and "freedom" in the particular emotional, political, and cultural realms of this novel? And how do these connections shift and even redefine themselves over time, from Salomé's birth in 1850 to Camila's death in 1973?
     
  • The quest for stability, for a home in a world of perpetual change and enduring political upheaval is one of the guiding themes in In the Name of Salomé. The novel's characters reflect on the nature of home repeatedly through the course of the novel. And for Pedro, Camila, and their siblings, this quest becomes life's central concern, the omnipresent burden of their parents' ambivalent legacy. "We are the new Israelites," the poet Jorge Guillén remarks to Camila about her nomadic plight. "We die if we forget. We die if we remember." Explain Jorge's allusion.
     
  • How do Camila's relationships with her familial and culture heritages evolve over the course of her life, from childhood on?
     
  • In what specific ways have Alvarez's distinct renderings of Western history—both in In the Name of Salomé as well as in her previous works—come to inform, challenge, or even contradict altogether your previous understandings of the history of United States foreign policy, particularly regarding Caribbean nations?
     
  • What role does faith play in shaping the paths taken by Salomé and Camila? What does it mean, and what does it cost, to have faith in this novel?
     
  • Take another look at "La llegada del invierno," Salomé's seventh chapter, which recounts the tumultuous night when Camila was presumably conceived. Discuss the metaphors (tuberculosis?) and the dark ironies, both personal and political, which seem to be at work in this chapter.
     
  • "What a man that woman is!" an unnamed Dominican says of Salomé at one point in the novel. Alvarez vividly depicts the overwhelming "cultura machista" and the deep-seated racial bigotry of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Dominican society—in which the education of girls, particularly dark-skinned girls, was strongly discouraged—and by doing so, she emphasizes how very astonishing and revolutionary Salomé's achievements were, given her environment. That said, Alvarez also complicates such an optimistic reading. After all, does Salomé ever wholly transcend her marginalized status as a woman? Consider Alvarez's novel through the lens of gender: What specific examples can we cite from the novel to either refute or support the argument that women in this novel, in the end, come out on the losing end in their struggle against the strictures of men?
     
  • "Deceiver, egotist, philanderer, liar, 'sin vergüenza', good for nothing, but I was still in love with him." At different points in the novel, Pancho Henríquez rewrites Salomé's poems, discourages and even censors all of her "feminine" or non-patriotic poems, and commissions a posthumous portrait of her that essentially erases her color and cultural identity. And of course, he presumes Salomé's fidelity even as he betrays her in Paris. How does he justify his actions? What were your initial reactions to Pancho, and how did they change over the course of the novel?
     
  • Unpack the layers of meaning behind Pedro's diagnosis that his mother's death was the result of "moral asphyxiation."
     
  • How does Alvarez's deliberate, symmetrical narrative structure reinforce the tone and echo the central themes of In the Name of Salomé? What is the effect, for instance, of Alvarez's decision to chart Salomé's life from birth to death and Camila's in reverse, from death to birth? Discuss also the significance of the chapter's titles.
     
  • "I was with child. I was dying of consumption." Here, in Salomé's final chapter, "Luz," Alvarez illuminates the novel's numerous collisions of paradoxical realities: of regeneration in the midst of stagnation, of love in the face of insidious betrayal, of faith coexisting with resignation, and especially, of Camila's impending birth exacerbating Salomé's imminent death. How do these opposing pairs resolve themselves in Alvarez's quietly distilled Epilogue, "Arriving Santo Domingo"?
     
  • Salomé is filled with the gift of clairvoyance on the turbulent night of Camila's conception. What does she see ahead? And do Camila's chapters prove the truth of these visions? Explain.
     
  • Compare In the Name of Salomé to other historical novels you've read recently that are also built around real-life figures (e.g.: Darin Strauss's Chang and Eng, Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring, Rose Tremain's Music & Silence, and so on). How does Alvarez's novel—as simultaneously sweeping and intimate as it is—complement, complicate, and/or depart from the standard themes and trappings of the historical fiction genre?
     
  • Imagine a companion volume to In the Name of Salomé: this one recounts essentially the same events as the original, but it is told in Pancho's voice instead of Salomé's, and follows Pedro's life instead of Camila's. How would this alternate novel be different in terms of perspective, language, and overall tone?
     
  • What did you know about Salomé Ureña before reading Alvarez's novel? About the history of the Dominican Republic? What surprised you most as you read?
     
  • Consider In the Name of Salomé alongside Alvarez's previous novels and poems, particularly In the Time of the Butterflies and The Other Side / El Otro Lado. What ideas, themes, metaphors, and/or recurrent imagery introduced by Alvarez in earlier works are echoed and further developed in this latest novel? And by contrast, in what ways can we read In the Name of Salomé as a departure, whether structurally, stylistically, or thematically?
     
  • What were your feelings about Camila at different points in the novel? Would you say she's been released from her sadness and fear in the Epilogue? Has she found her voice and realized her dream for the future, of "becoming Salomé Camila"? Is it accurate to say that Camila's closeted-ness and repression affects much more than her sexuality alone? What else is Camila afraid of? By whom might she feel hemmed in?
     
  • What significance can we take from the fact that Alvarez gives Camila a first-person voice in the Epilogue?
     
  • In the year of her death, what has Camila apparently achieved or discovered about herself during her time in Cuba that gives her the strength to no longer hide, whether literally or figuratively—and to finally claim for herself, if only on a headstone, the name her mother gave her, and the name that has dwarfed her since girlhood, Salomé Camila?
     
  • Discuss the bittersweet tone—the mixture of death and hope, tragedy and redemption, regret and contentment—underlying the final image in Alvarez's novel, in which Camila uses the letters on her headstone to teach a young Dominican boy (pointedly named Duarte) how to read.
     
  • In this final moment of In the Name of Salomé, what do you imagine Camila might have said in answer to the question her mother posed as a girl—"Father, what is a patria?"
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  • Posted December 15, 2009

    In The Name Of Salome

    In the Name of Salome is a touching story that describes a group of characters living in the Dominican Republic. This novel mostly follows the Henriquez and Urena families. The Major characters are Salome Urena; her parents, Gregoira and Nicolas; her sister Romana, Salomes only daughter,Camila, and her aunt Ana. Throughout this powerful novel we also meet Salomes husband, a powerful political leader of the Dominican Republic, Francisco Henriquez, otherwise known for his pen name Pancho or Papancho.
    In the Name of Salome is a powerful and emotional book that tells the story of a mother and daughter. Camila never knew Salome. Each chapter changes from Camila narrating to Salome. Camilas story is tolled in reverseso it startsas her being a collage professor.
    In the summer of 1960, Camila Henriquez Urena, daughter of Salome Urena, the nineteenth- century revolutionary Dominican poet, travels to Cuba to join the Fidel Castros revolution from Poughkeepsie. Camila wants to discover and find out who her mother really was and what she exactly wrote and created. Camila begins to fill her mothers shoes and becomes a political and poetic writer. Being a women writer during this time was very difficult thing to do and also to have a political opinion. In the Name of Salome combines fiction and reality with the real historic women, Salome, and her life.
    I enjoyed reading this book and will continue to read Julia Alvarezs' books such as How the Garcia Girls lost Their Accents and Before We Were Free. Julia is a creative and brilliant writer who painted the picture of Salomes life in my head. I enjoyed and loved this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2001

    Another Julia Alvarez success!

    After reading earlier works by Julia Alvarez, I looked forward to reading this one. I was not disappointed. Alvarez is right up there with Isabel Allende among contemporary Latin American writers. This novel captures the heart of two women who fought for their countries in one way or another. I look forward to reading Alvarez's future works.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2001

    Que alegria

    I always look forward to anything Julia Alvarez writes. This book brought back so many beautiful memories. I did not attend Colegio de Senoritas de Salome Urena, but my mother did. Julia alwys brings me back home with her wrtings. It is such an honor to read her books. I await desperately your next gem !!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2000

    In the name of Julia!

    Once again, Julia Alvarez has written a spellbinding novel about historical figures from the Dominican Republic. Being of Dominican descendants myself, I always look for her wonderful books to take me back to the island in which I hold dear to my heart. I went to her book reading for this novel in D.C., and when she read a part from the book in which Salome meets her father for the first time, I sat in the audience and cried. It was so moving, I got goosebumps. This book gave me a valuable history lesson on Salome Urena and her daughter as well as interesting facts about the Dominican and Cuban government. Even though her book is fiction based on reality, you can always tell what parts are true historical events, and it makes the book all the more delightful. Julia YOU are the true musa de la patria of this millenium. Maybe in 100 years some brilliant author will tell your story and your wonderful contributions to literature? I've read all of Julia's works and have never been disappointed. Read this book, along with her others and you will see what I mean.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2000

    Talent and Hipocrisy

    Camila's life as a professor of spanish for upper-middle class kids is, according to the picture Alvarez draws, somehow less of a life than the 13 years Camila spends in Cuba. But what about Julia Alvarez? Isn't she a professor for upper middle class kids? No. She's more than that. She's someone who's bought into her own mythology of latin american revolutions as a 'more real' reality than that of America. Alvarez understands latin american reality through the same terms as any ordinary American; much like a flaky western youth looks on India as a land of spiritual values deeper than those of the west. But Alvarez happens to have a latin-american last name, and that, apparently, grants her works some authenticity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2000

    Historical

    Finally !!!!! Julia Alvarez has embraced us with yet another masterpiece. Te felicito Quisqueyana !!!

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    Posted January 4, 2009

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    Posted October 29, 2008

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    Posted September 23, 2009

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    Posted March 17, 2009

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